White Wizzard is back with their fourth release since their formation in 2007, actually the second full-length release since 2010's "Over The Top", and it screams old school metal.
A lot of folks keep using the overused acronym for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal when referring to this group, and though there are a quite a few riffs which make me think of K.K. Downing or Dave Murray and Steve Harris (especially on tracks like Fall of Atlantis and Blood on the Pyramids), such a description only tells half the story. I also get a bit of the Sunset Strip, Whiskey A Go Go, The Roxy, 80's West Hollywood vibe from White Wizzard; most likely due to the fact that they are Angelinos who have stuck to the solid, cross-genre formula for metal with shredding leads and power chords galore which are backed by driving beats and complex bass work . White Wizzard's style is obviously influenced by both the local and British masters of yore.
The opening track "Fight To The Death" vaguely reminds me of earlier L.A. greats such as Keel or Dokken. Matter of fact, both the first song and the one which follows, "West L.A. Nights" (excellent song), immediately sets a mood which radiates the hunger of a young metal act paying their dues on a small club stage which is enveloped by the stench of smoke and alcohol but without, thankfully, any hint of 80's L.A. "glam".
I would have to say that the track which really reminded me ever so slightly of Dokken was "Starchild"; it starts off with a soft, melodic guitar and a vocal styling that immediately brought to mind a song like "Alone Again". Giovanni Durst's drumming is more reminiscent of Mick Brown than that of Nicko McBrain, though in later tracks he works the cymbals as McBrain does. Wyatt Anderson's vocals also helps to stop the comparison to Dokken in its tracks. But I would readily admit that about 2 minutes and 37 seconds into the track I can hear just a hint of Maiden beginning to come through.
It really isn't until the track "Flying Tigers" I begin to fully hear the similarity to oldschool NWOBHM bands; Jon Leon manipulates the strings of his bass with a passion that seemingly combines both the progressive stylings of Geddy Lee as well as the "galloping" of Steve Harris.
Throughout the album, you come to understand that both Erik Kluiber and Chad Bryan don't mess around when it comes to their string work, you can almost see these two jamming with their backs to each other like the power duos of old; guys like Dave Murray and Adrian Smith or Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing. Though not quite at the level of such greats, they have both youth and time on their side.
It really is astounding, the album seems to evolve with each track; where it begins with a refreshing reminder of the Strip, it ends with the mastery of London. The only song that seems out of place is the instrumental track "Dark Alien Overtures" which is almost a RUSH-like freestyle jam.
I would also wager that some of the Maiden comparisons not only stem from a perceived musical style, but from the fact that as with Steve Harris, Jon Leon is the man behind the White Wizzard brand; after their self-titled EP release, he had fired the entire band and started WW from scratch. And, it may be because of this, I can't help but feel that they are still trying to nail down their own style as a group, something which could be called uniquely White Wizzard; a song that will have you shouting "Hell Yeah, White Wizzard! Turn that up!" after hearing the first couple of chords. Don't get me wrong, these guys have the talent to do great things.
On a side note: I dunno if the band is going for an "Eddie The Head" type of Mascot, but the ram horned skeleton wizard makes another appearance on this album cover, unfortunately the artwork doesn't do the band justice; where Derek Riggs' paintings are highly detailed, this work is rather cartoonish. I can't tell if the cover is an homage to the artwork for "Aces High" or just a lack of creativity on the artist's part. I personally feel that though, it was most likely created by the same individual, the art for "Over The Top" was a tad bit better. Unfortunately, many people judge books by their covers and I would hate to think people would equate the art to the music on the album itself.
Another thing lacking is the instantly recognizable logo, they really need to work on that...if you look at Judas Priest's album "Sin After Sin" the band's logo was different than the Iconic font we know today; so there is already a precedent for them to seek out something "more substantial" even after an album or two has been released to the public.
In summing up, White Wizzard is all about playin' Heavy Metal, no gimmicks, no motifs, no sub-genres, just metal. They do need to iron some things out of course, as I've said before, they've already been through one serious lineup change since White Wizzard first came onto the scene, but if you like no b.s. metal, you might just want to check 'em out.